Last year I was fortunate enough to receive the Sprout Producer Scholarship from Sprout Tasmania. Sprout Tasmania is a not-for-profit organisation run by volunteers who are dedicated in supporting local food producers who want to turn their farming ideas into reality and go to market.
The vision of Sprout Tasmania is to be a collective who creates positive change and prosperity for food producers by sharing knowledge, ideas and stories about the producers, their products and businesses. They want to create a market place where consumers can purchase ethically produced, great tasting produce.
And this is why I am honoured and feel very proud to be chosen as a Sprout Producer. In a time where food is taken for granted and is making us unwell, as farmers and producers it is up to us to make a change, to be the change and to make a difference in the conventional agricultural and industrialized food industry.
It is why we need organisations like Sprout Tasmania around. To be a voice and to help up and coming ethical small scale farmers like myself produce organic, chemical free food. To enable us to make a difference in regards to peoples health and well-being and also the health of our environment.
As part of the program each recipient is allocated a mentor. I am very lucky to have Tony Scherer as my mentor. Tony is an amazing certified organic grower and owner of Rocky Top Farm here in Tasmania. Tony has a wealth of knowledge and is an horticulturist and sustainable agriculture lecturer. He has been growing and selling organic produce from the age of seven (so that’s around 60 years). He is a guru in market gardening, and I am extremely grateful and fortunate to have Tony as my mentor for Primal Living Farm.
Today I had Tony pop out to my farm to offer me some guidance. It was so good to walk around the farm and ask questions on soil health, growing crops from seed, when to transplant out and organic, chemical free vegetable growing. We also got onto the topic of charging people for food. And this is where I came unstuck! I came unstuck for a number of reasons; however the main reason is charging people to buy my vegetables. You see I feel that every single person should have access to chemical free organic produce. And when I can grow food and give people honest, organic real food I feel like my job is done. When I hand over my produce to another person and I see their face, I know am helping them to be healthy and well and I feel that’s how I am being paid.
However I also know that giving away food does not pay for the next lot of seeds I need to buy, the hours of work I put into the farm or the hours of research and courses I do to make myself a more knowledgable and resourceful leader in holistic health and sustainability.
I mentioned to Tony about how I haven’t made a sustainable income from growing food and how I didn’t feel comfortable charging people for my produce. And what happened next was a very concerning look from Tony and a comment that went like this (not in exact words, but very close)
You’re growing food that is not sprayed with a single chemical. Food that is extremely tasty. You spend hours out there looking after the soil and ensuring that the produce is well looked after. You’re ensuring that people are able to heal their body with chemical free and organic real food. And his last comment was…..you’re worth it.
And than he said this. “More people know more about how their mobile phone works than what they put in their body”
And that there folks, was the biggest aha moment I needed to push me in valuing and selling my produce and to be the change I want to see in this world.
Tony is right. More people do know how their mobile phone works than what they put into their body. And if I don’t charge for my chemical free produce, I can’t be the change I want to see in the world and help educate people on why chemical free, organic produce is worth the extra dollars.
This post is not actually about me making money. It is though about valuing what we put into our bodies, valuing ourselves, valuing our organic farmers and having a greater understanding of how our food is grown and why it is worth the extra few dollars we pay for it.
When I charge $6.50 for a punnet of strawberries compared to $3.50 it is up to me to educate the consumer the value they are receiving when they buy my strawberries. When you take two strawberries, one being chemical free and grown organically and the other being grown with pesticides and conventionally and you put the strawberries side by side, you wouldn’t know the difference (until you tasted it).
And when you’re a family on a budget or anyone on a tight budget you habitually look for the cheaper punnet of strawberries. I used to do that. However now that I do know the difference between chemical free, organically grown vegetables compared to conventional grown and the amount of sprays that potentially have ben used on the conventional fruit I believe my health and what I put into my body is worth spending the bit extra on and now I make a choice to buy organic.
However if you are still not convinced and you feel that buying chemical free and organic fruit and vegetables is not worth it, I would like to share below an extract taken from a report written by Friends of the Earth on “pesticides food and you”
“According to scientists, pesticides regularly detected on Australian Food have been linked to possible problems with human endocrine function, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), learning and behavioural problems, lower IQ and possible increases in Lymphoblastic Leukemia in children”
Longer term exposure to pesticides have also been linked with development of Parkinsons Disease. Of particular concern is the possible impact of pesticides on the development of the human foetus, cancer, hypothyroidism and autism. Of the 125 types of pesticides detected on Australian fruit and vegetable surveyed, 45% are suspected endocrine disruptors, with 62% of all detections related to suspected endocrine disrupting pesticides. A number of health issues can be related to endocrine disruption”.
The most ‘at risk’ foods in Australia due to pesticide exposure include: apples, wheat, strawberries, pears and grapes.
Also of concern is potential for pesticide residues in; lettuce, nectarines, peaches, bread, bran, biscuits, imported tea, barley, tomatoes, apricots, canola, flour, carrots, plums and green beans”.
So as you can see our health and well-being starts with food. And because you’re worth (let me repeat, you’re worth it) spending the little bit of extra money on chemical free food you can take a massive step towards having good health and knowing more about how our food is grown.
Some ways to start this life changing action is by changing a few simple things.
1: Shop at your local farmers market. As much as possible buy from the local small farmers who grow fruit and vegetables chemical free and organic. Have a chat with the farmer. Every farmer I know who grows organic food loves nothing more than chatting with their customers. I often think the conversation and the connections that have been made is why we all do it.
2: Grow your own food. You do not need to do what I am doing. You can grow food on a very small block. My mentor Tony gave me another great piece of advice and that was “Only grow what you love to eat”. I would like to pass that same words of wisdom down to you. Make a list of the vegetables that you and your family love to eat and start with that. The excitement that you will feel when growing your own food will be extremely rewarding and it’s a great way to have the kids involved.
3: If you don’t have access to a farmers market and you can’t grow your own food ask your local supermarket if they can supply chemical free, organic produce. Don’t be shy about this. The more times each and every one of us asks this question, the more we can make a difference.
4: Educate and change. I know that this can take time and I know that we should be able to eat food and not have to worry about what has been sprayed; unfortunately this is not the case.
If you’re having hormonal issues or any other health issues than the first thing I would be addressing is food. It starts with food and it starts with you. Ask questions, read the back of packets, use google to find out what that ingredient are. Be a detective. Lets change how we know more about our mobile to knowing more about how our food is grown.
And on that note, I would like to help you get started. When you see your favourite vegetable or fruit for $2 cheaper at a supermarket compared to the local organic farmer selling it down the road, I would like to encourage you to buy from the farmer down the road. Because by buying from the local organic farmer will be worth the extra money you spent in more ways than one. And in the end you will be saving money by not having to spend money on fixing your health.
I wish you the very best in health and wellness, and remember you are worth feeding your body with real food grown organically. So head out there and find the local and chemical free farmers doing that for all of us.